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Military News Briefs for the Week Ending Aug. 18, 2000

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2000 –

(This is a summary of the top American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending Aug. 11, 2000)



TRICARE beneficiaries are now just a phone call away from accessing help to resolve creditors' concerns over late or unpaid medical care bills. While service members, retirees and family members consider the TRICARE health care system a valued benefit, they don't like threatening calls and letters from collection agencies harassing them over unpaid medical bills. Service members and other TRICARE beneficiaries raised the bill-collector issue at the Military Family Forum May 31 at the Pentagon, Rostker said. He responded June 27 with a memorandum directing the services' health affairs organizations to establish the Debt Collection Assistance Officer program within 30 days.

Implemented July 26, this new program formally established DCAOs as local points of contact that service members and other eligible TRICARE beneficiaries, stateside and overseas, may use to resolve medical bill payment issues. The new DCAO system, Rostker said, creates a formal method for beneficiaries "to gain help in dealing with what admittedly is, as is every health maintenance organization, a bureaucratic process."

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Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps exchange customers can swap Firestone tires affected by the recently announced recall campaign at local military exchanges or local corporate-owned dealers.

Bridgestone/Firestone will replace free an estimated 6.5 million  ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT all-terrain tires, company officials have announced. Officials of all the military exchange services said their stores would take back eligible customers' recalled Firestone tires, regardless of the original purchase location.

Military customers at any AAFES Autopride Car Care facility are authorized credit equal to the AAFES retail price of a recalled tire. The credit may be applied to a new Firestone tire of their choice or any other brand. The customer pays the difference the sale price of the replacement tire, or tires, exceeds the credit. Likewise, AAFES will refund the difference if the customer buys a cheaper tire. Mounting, balancing and transfer of any AAFES road hazard warranty will be free.

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U.S. Navy Seabees and Estonian soldiers are using Partnership for Peace Exercise Cornerstone 00-2 here to build bridges -- one made of metal and the other of goodwill and friendship. The purpose of Cornerstone, sponsored by U.S. Naval Forces Europe Command, is to develop a common understanding of peace support operations and enhance procedures to conduct them with different units. It is a two-phase joint combined exercise. During Phase I, Army National Guard and Marine Reservists conducted combat engineering training with Estonian engineers and other units, and Latvian and Lithuanian engineers. During Phase II, the Seabees worked with Estonian units on humanitarian projects, including the construction of a bridge, renovation of a kitchen facility for the homeless, construction work at an orphanage, and assembly of two camp shelters. The crew of the Poltsamaa bridge project consists of active duty Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 of Gulfport, Miss., and Naval Reserve Seabees from NMCB 24 of Huntsville, Ala.; and Estonian soldiers of Tartu Single Infantry Battalion here.

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Nearly 800 family program officials, commanders and military family members are scheduled to gather in Phoenix, Ariz., Aug. 22 to 24 for the DoD Family Readiness Conference.


Internationally syndicated columnist Heloise will be among the guest speakers. Others include personal finance expert Ric Edelman, Web community design specialist Amy Jo Kim, and personnel and government affairs marketing consultant Neil Howe.


Bernard Rostker, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Alphonso Maldon Jr., assistant defense secretary for force management policy, are among the DoD officials also slated to speak.


Victor Vasquez, assistant defense secretary for military community and family policy, said the conference is designed "to teach strategies for creating self-sustaining communities that provide effective family support in day-to-day living and in times of high perstempo and crisis, and to focus on building and preserving strong, self-reliant families."

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The author of the best-selling book "Black Hawk Down" believes veterans of the deadly battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, found it therapeutic to talk to him about their experiences


The "Philadelphia Inquirer" reporter spoke recently to a group of military mental health experts, chaplains and commanders at a DoD conference on operational stress at Fort McNair here.


Bowden said he spent countless hours interviewing many of the soldiers involved in the pitched battle of Oct. 3, 1993. It was "the most traumatic thing that they'd ever been through," he said, and it was "extremely helpful" for them to sit down and talk about it.

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